Eugene Water & Electric Board's upriver customers worried about a potential service territory transfer can breathe a sigh of relief.

The more than 3,000 EWEB customers in the McKenzie River Valley won't become Lane Electric Cooperative customers any time soon. The two utilities first announced the idea to transfer the service area about 30 miles east of Eugene in July.

Customers were sent letters signed by both utilities' general managers to announce that talks were off after the utilities couldn't "hit the financial sweet spot," Lane Electric General Manager Rick Crinklaw said.

Lane Electric's customer base would have increased by 25 percent, adding residents from Thurston Road just outside Springfield's eastern city limit to Thomson Lane near Vida. The utility serves about 13,000 customers in rural communities surrounding the Eugene-Springfield metro area.

The transfer would have cost Lane Electric more than $1 million to pay for more crews, equipment and transmission lines, Crinklaw said. Those costs would have been shouldered by ratepayers, he said.

The utilities initially looked into the idea of handing over the territory because EWEB is better suited to serve urban rather than rural customers. About 97 percent of EWEB's customers live in the city of Eugene, while Lane Electric's crews are more equipped to deal with rural communities.

The deal also would have given upriver customers a vote in utility commissioners elections. EWEB's commissioners are elected based on city of Eugene voting wards. If the territory were transferred to Lane Electric, customers there could participate in Lane Electric elections.

During a September public meeting about the transfer, most of the more than 50 upriver customers who showed up were strongly opposed to the transfer. Some have been EWEB customers for decades and didn't understand why the utility wanted to call it quits now.

EWEB would have sold 160 miles in transmission lines and electric infrastructure to Lane Electric and possibly a substation, EWEB spokesman Joe Harwood said. The two utilities "were pretty far apart" on what they thought the infrastructure was worth, he said.

"It's something that we thought would make sense to explore and both utilities looked at it pretty hard," Harwood said. "But quite frankly, the numbers weren't there for either utility."

Though both utilities declined to say how much money was offered for the equipment, Crinklaw said it would have cost Lane Electric "millions of dollars."

EWEB also decided that it didn't want one more project to take on while it's in the process of relicensing its Carmen-Smith Hydroelectric Project east of Eugene and developing an emergency water source, Harwood said.

"It comes down to not having too many irons in the fire," he said.

Both utilities say they would consider revisiting a transfer in the future.

Follow Josephine on Twitter @j_woolington.

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.